Flashback Friday: Pardon me, but your flaws are showing

This post was originally published April 18th of this year. But I really wanted to share it again. So I’m making this my “Flashback Friday” post. Enjoy!

I just want to get this out in the open: I am not a perfect mom.

Phew! I feel so much better having said that (typed that?) out loud. Because, I mean, everyone thought I was perfect, right? (~crickets chirping~)

Let’s be honest here. I will never blog about things I’ve perfected, because that wouldn’t be physically possible. Imperfect me training up my imperfect children in the way they should go is a constant work in progress. I (as a mom, wife, human) am a work in progress. (And I don’t aspire to perfection; I want my imperfections and trials and improvements to help other people know they aren’t alone.)

It seems like there is some invisible expectation out there that says moms should have it all together. All the time. And never complain about anything. Ever. Especially not about their darling children. Because raising children is easy peasy, rainbows and sunshine all the time. And if you complain about your kids you are either a terrible mom, you can’t handle your kids, or you should stop having kids.

Am I the only one thinking that sounds nuts right about now? Believe it or not, I’ve heard people say these things. (Even from people who don’t even have children! What?!)

There are lots of things I have learned about parenting through trial and error. And error. And error. Life doesn’t come with an eraser or rewind button. We (moms) are imperfect people trying our hardest to raise our children as best as we know possible. Unfortunately every child is different, and unfortunately kids do not come with instruction manuals. There are some things about parenthood that no amount of parenting books and child-rearing classes can teach you. There are some things about parenthood that require rolling up your sleeves, pulling on your mudboots and jumping in head first.

So when moms feel the constant pressure to always have a cheerful façade on their faces (butter up, Buttercup, right?), to never talk about the struggles of the daily grind that goes with raising children, to always portray the epitome of Suzy Homemaker, we are really only setting each other (and ourselves) up for failure (at least in our own minds).

There is no such thing as a perfect mom, nor should there exist a “standard” that makes raising a family more difficult than it has to be.

Social media has made this almost exceedingly impossible. Instead of seeing the nitty-gritty things moms encounter on a day-to-day basis, we only see snapshots of the times that go right. Here is a typical conversation I have with myself in my head while scrolling through Facebook on any given day:

“So-and-so’s kids are always dressed perfectly; they never have snot trails dribbling down their noses or leftover spaghetti noodles dried in their hair. Her house is always immaculate (when is the last time I could walk across the floor without tripping on a toy?) and her food is always equally portioned (why won’t my kids eat anything but Goldfish crackers and pizza??). Her completed Pinterest projects are awe-inspiring and she is always doing awesome crafts with her kids. She just ran her 20th marathon! Her kids are even smiling while sitting in the shopping cart at Target (I’m usually the frazzled/frustrated mom with a screaming baby trying to corral her kids to stay near the cart). Even their recent family picture is flawless with everyone smiling and looking at the camera. What am I doing wrong?! World’s worst mom.”

I need to knock it off! Deep down I know it isn’t always like that at their house. But when my own daily imperfections are sitting there staring me in the face, and I’m not allowed to talk about them openly with other moms to see if I’m the only one, it is hard to remember that we all have days like that. It is hard to remember my house isn’t always a war-zone, my kids are usually well-behaved at the store (I’m giving my kids the benefit of the doubt here), we do eat healthy food (although I wish my kids weren’t so picky about some things), I do find time to go on my elliptical (ten minutes a day counts as something, right???)…

And my kids are just as loved as anyone else’s. Period. At the end of any good-or-bad-or-in-between day, that is all that matters.

I don’t have this parenting thing figured out, and neither do you, and that is okay. We don’t need to figure it all out all at once. Take the little successes in stride and work on areas that need to be improved upon (FYI- I have found that bribing my kids with Dum-Dum suckers at the store is a HUGE sanity-saver!!!).

Don’t be afraid to share your struggles and successes with your friends and family. Post a status on Facebook without fear of negative judgments. Call up your support system and let off some steam on days that seem to offer more bad than good mommy moments. Because at one time or another we all have hard days. We all have days where we feel we are missing the mark in more ways than one. Days we need to be reminded that we aren’t alone in this journey. Celebrate the successes with each other, and build each other up in times that are extremely difficult. Set aside the assumption that if things aren’t going right today– things aren’t going as “perfectly” as they should– you have somehow failed Motherhood: 101. Remember: we are all works in progress!

Unconditional love and acceptance goes a long way in a world that seems to look down its nose at us. Stop judging other people by their current situation and, instead, start loving them for the total, beautiful mom they are growing into.

(When I was editing this blog post today, I found this quote and thought it fit perfectly!)

image

Have a blessed day at the start of this wonderful weekend of new beginnings!

Evolution of Parenting

 

source: pinaquote.com

source: pinaquote.com

The parent I am now is NOT the parent I was when I first became a mom seven years ago.  Now that it is two against six or, during the work week, one against six, my mantra is “survival of the fittest”.  I’ve had to loosen the reigns to not only survive but because, quite frankly, some of my previous notions as a parent were kind of ridiculous. (Hindsight is always 20/20, right?)

First child: I can vividly remember saying (and, in case I forgot, my mother-in-law has been very helpful in reminding me, LOL) that my first child would never ever be allowed to sleep over at anyone’s house. It’s not that I didn’t trust our parents. I was more worried I would miss him and no one would know how to take care of him like I take care of him and he would be miserable without me. I didn’t let him sleep over anywhere without me for at least the first eight to ten months. Sixth child: Now? With baby #6? She has had at least three nights away from me in her four short months of life.  And my other kids can’t wait to spend time away from me (who they see all day every day). Seriously.  We pull into grandma and grandpa’s driveway and the kids are like, “See ya never!”  We live three hours from our families (aka our babysitters) and, honestly, I look forward to the few precious hours we can spend away from our kids when we go back home to visit.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, no?

First child: I was very diligent in filling out my first child’s baby book.  I even had a scrapbook of his first year of life.  I literally took THOUSANDS of pictures of him in his first year of life. Like, I’m pretty sure his first word was “cheese” because of how often I had that camera out.  I wanted to make sure I preserved every single memory possible. I  also made sure that I had recent pictures of him plastered all over our wall.  Sixth child: I own one of those fancy-shmancy cameras now.  And while I still love to take pictures, I don’t take nearly as many pictures now as I did then.  I don’t even have our updated family picture on the wall, or any pictures of our sixth baby printed out.  She does have a baby book.  That the hospital gave us. That has absolutely nothing in it except for her handprints and footprints from right after she was born.  That the nurses put in there for us. BUT each of our kids has a memory box full of different trinkets (coming-home-from-the-hospital outfits, first haircut trimmings, hospital bracelets, birthday cards, etc.), so I’m not too out of touch. 😉

First child: When it came to food, I swore up and down, left and right that my child would never eat sugar, or fast food. I found it alarming that some parents allowed their kids to eat *gasp* non-organic macaroni and cheese. I know, right? Sixth child: While I do try to feed my kids healthy and nutritious meals and snacks, I don’t lose sleep over my kids eating Happy Meals or sno-cones every once in a while. My mama-sanity sometimes depends on a trip through the drive-thru. Plus it gives me an excuse to order myself a caramel frappe. 😉

First child: My first baby never watched television. I used to be a naïve TV “snob” and couldn’t believe that some parents actually let their kids watch the electronic box.  I eventually tip-toed my way into the world of kids’ TV via Baby Einstein.  I mean, with a name like that it had to be worlds better than SpongeBob What’s-his-name. Sixth child: By the sixth baby, I have definitely become more lax with my TV censorship.  Typically I don’t like my kids to watch more than a couple of hours of television during the day.  But during the freezing cold winter months, and with having a newborn, and a crazy homeschool schedule, and kids that think 5:30 is an appropriate wake-up time… Sometimes we have the TV on more than I would like.  And that’s just how life is right now.  It won’t always be like this.  Remember… This is survival of the fittest, parenting-style.

First child: Whenever my first child’s pacifier fell to the ground, I would wash it off and, more often than not, sterilize it in boiling water. Any piece of food that fell to the floor would promptly be thrown away. Sixth child: I quickly inspect the pacifier and then pop it back in the baby’s mouth without a second thought. (Unless we are at a store or anywhere else in public.  I’m not that gross.)  Dropped food? No biggie.  We have the ten minute rule around here.  When my kids are scavenging for lost Cheerios in the couch, I take that as a signal that I probably need to feed them.

First child: My first child was held by either my husband or myself all. the. time.  I honestly don’t remember using the bouncy seat when he was a baby, and we didn’t own a bumbo. I even had a hard time letting family and friends hold him.  Ridiculous, right? Sixth child: I do have to say that our sixth child is also held the majority of the time.  But by her older siblings.  Seriously, they bicker about who gets to hold her, and there are plenty of “You are a baby hog” comments that are shouted out every day. So while I don’t hold my baby as much as I held my first one, she is still getting snuggled up and loved on pretty much every minute of the day.

First child: I vowed I would never, ever be angry with my sweet firstborn.  Looking at my tiny, innocent newborn, I not only thought, “My child will never ever do something naughty enough to provoke anger out of me,” but I also thought, “I will never, ever be mad at/frustrated with my child.” Famous last words. Er, thoughts. Sixth child: I’ve learned that, while my kids are angels, they are most certainly not perfect. They are humans and have a big learning curve.  On occasion they will need correction.  On occasion they will make me upset.  And that is okay.  That is life with kids. The good news is that, over the years, I’ve learned that consistency is key. And while my sixth child doesn’t have the capability to be “naughty” right now, I know that, at some point in the future, I will have to put my parenting skills to use.

First child: I remember holding my son for the first time, gazing at this tiny person who was fully dependent on me.  My heart literally grew three inches that day.  I couldn’t imagine loving anyone more than I loved my firstborn.  When I got pregnant with our second child when my first was only 9 months old, I remember worrying that I would never be able to love another baby as much as I loved my first. My mind couldn’t even fathom it. Sixth child: I think it is safe to say that a mother’s love is not divided but rather multiplied. I’m always amazed at the instant love I feel after the birth of each of our children.  I love our sixth baby as much as I loved our first.  And the love each of my kids have for each other is nothing short of heartwarming. It makes all of the times they argue and fight a little more bearable.

For those of you with kids, how has your parenting style changed over the years?  Are you more lax than you were at the beginning?

Hey you! Stop complaining about my complaining!

Source: meinlilapark.blogspot.com

Source: meinlilapark.blogspot.com

Sitting in bed, wide awake before my family gets up for the day, left alone with only my thoughts. This might come out as rambling, but it is something I want to share.

Being a mom is hard. It is the only occupation in the world that you can’t simply run away from and hide.  There is no “two week notice”, or moving up a corporate ladder, or transferring to a different department. You have to stare it down, right in the eyes, every. single. day.  Whether you want to or not.

Sure, there are moments that are bright and cheery, fun and colorful.  The first cry, every new milestone, discovering the world around them. It is pretty safe to say that motherhood is rewarding.

But overall, motherhood requires that we make sacrifices of our own wants, needs, and self.

Our bodies are not our own.  Our thoughts are not our own.  Our future plans are not our own.  Sometimes our very menial choices of the day (what to eat, what to wear) are not our own.

And you know what?  In the American society there exists a stigma that says we don’t have a right to complain about the hard-ness of motherhood.  Because we chose this role in life, we are entitled to exactly ZERO complaints.  There was a viral blog post about this not too long ago (although pertaining to SAHMs, it can also be drawn out for all moms in general).  You can read it HERE.

I’m here to call out whoever thinks that way.

I’m sorry, but not really.  Mothering is hard.  Complaining about, talking about, discussing what we are going through is not akin to hating where we are at in life. Not talking about it does not make that fact disappear.

In any other occupation in the world, there are certain levels of challenge.  Co-worker drama, over-powering bosses, heavy workloads, overtime, etc.  In any of these cases it would seem socially acceptable to complain to friends and family.  To blow off steam.  Or to find solutions to better our situation (transfer, apply elsewhere, etc.).

But in motherhood, we are made to bite the silent bullet, because we made our bed and need to lay in it.  Because raising kids isn’t supposed to seem hard. Because this is what we chose so of course it must be endured with smiles on our glowing faces. Because if we complain we will somehow turn our kids into bitter, resentful adults.

Wrong.

Choice does not equal easiness. Stress does not equal discontentedness. The challenge of today does not equal regret in choosing our path in motherhood.

Sometimes we have hard days, plain and simple.  Sometimes the ages and stages of our children are not easy.  Sometimes we need to voice our struggles to find others who are going through the same thing.  Or to hear from the “alumni” of this stage of life, that “this too shall pass”.

Complaining about the events of the day/week/month does not mean we love our children any less.  It simply means we are human and are having a hard time.  As any other human being on the planet can attest to. Sometimes the darkness of the hard days can make us blind to the brightness of the future.

And so we vent.  And that is okay.  Until you’ve walked a mile in that person’s shoes, you really have no right to tell them how to behave or think.

And so we can all mommy on, taking comfort in the fact that the hard days will pass. And when we are in the thralls of it, it is ok to talk about it.  No stones will be cast from me.  You aren’t alone!

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

mother

My great aunt sent me this poem when I was pregnant with our fifth child. (Click HERE to read it.)  It is titled “Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hamilton. It is a beautiful poem about putting aside daily tasks to be more present with our children, because they grow up too fast. The dust and cobwebs will always be there; our babies will not.

Don’t let things, tasks, people stop you from enjoying your kids while they are still here in your home, needing you.

My house may not be “Pinterest perfect” (my last Pinterest attempt actually ended in an ER visit and stitches), and my countertops are seldom clear of piles of mail, the kids’ artwork, or the dishes from supper last night.  But our days are full of laughter and learning and cuddling and singing and playing.

Except.

Except for when I get trapped in the time vortex known as Facebook.  I can sit down with the intent of giving myself a 20 minute break to unwind on Facebook during naptime, and then look up to realize it is supper time and my house is in complete chaos.

Lack of discipline? Yes. Lack of self-control? Definitely.

Can anyone else relate?

I decided that in order to more fully enjoy my kids, and to be more present with them during the day (and maybe even stay caught up with the laundry??), I’m breaking up with Facebook.

Those that know me well know that I have always had a love-hate relationship with Facebook.

Things that I love about Facebook include: keeping in touch with friends and family that live far away, being able to make new friends in various groups, and having the ability to keep up to date on news happenings around the world. And that’s about it.

I don’t love the drama (oooooh the drama), or the negativity, or the time-sucking, or the constant “I need to know anything and everything about your life” that floods my newsfeed. I have lost friends due to things posted on Facebook.  And, sadly, I’ve missed out on daily interactions with my kids.

Ouch.  It hurts to say that out loud. But if I’m being honest, then yes, it is true.

So, last weekend I made the decision to deactivate my Facebook account. <<Again.>> (Don’t get me wrong, this is much easier said than done!)

I’m putting a stake in the ground and saying I’ve had enough. This time with my kids at home is more important than anything I can see on Facebook. No offense, but adiós, Facebook!  At least until I learn some self-control and discipline. 😉

In regards to the poem I shared above, I give to you my own rendition that more aptly fits into our generation of parenting. With so many things competing for our attention nowadays, let’s make sure our kids aren’t coming in last place! Maybe you can find the courage to unplug more often. Or maybe you want to try a break-up with Facebook (or Twitter, or your e-mail account, etc.). You have nothing to lose and everything worthwhile to gain! 🙂


Song For A 21st Century Child

Mother, oh Mother, check your inbox.
Text back your friend, talk, talk, talk.
Notifications and friend requests, too;
try to go viral with a hit on youtube.
Where is the mother who isn’t updating?
She’s out in the backyard, blissfully playing.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as I dislike to.
(giggling, smiling, cuddling, too).
E-mails are waiting, I forgot how to Tweet
(running and skipping and hide-and-go-seek).

My blog’s not updated and my followers are blue,
and my password needs changing to something new.
But I’m playing pirates and kissing boo-boos.
Look at those toes! Aren’t they just cute?
(giggling, smiling, cuddling, too).

Facebook and Twitter will wait ’til tomorrow,
for kiddos grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So turn off the iPad, silence the beep.
I’m snuggling my baby for babies don’t keep.

The Face In the Mirror

Source:  shakespearefiorenza.blogspot.com

Source:
shakespearefiorenza.blogspot.com

Dear friend:

I see you standing there, disappointment resounding in your eyes. The thoughts going through your mind are made apparent by the downcast look upon your face.  You turn to the side and, carefully studying what you see in the mirror, you heave a big sigh.

Your once bright eyes are now shadowed, the sleepless nights ever-apparent. Your body is soft and slumped in places that once were youthful and toned. Your back aches from the constant lifting-carrying-rocking-bending-kneeling your body is now accustomed to.  Your stretch-marks looking bigger than ever. All of the things you deem as imperfections seem to stand out in stark contrast to how you used to look.

I’m here to tell you to stop it.  That disappointment you are feeling, the ache to have back the body you once so proudly walked in, the ache to look any other way than what the reflection is showing you right at this very moment.

Stop.

I’m here to tell you that motherhood has changed you.  Spiritually, mentally, emotionally. Physically.  You are not the same person you were before you saw those two pink lines, heard that first cry, smelled that sweet baby smell, kissed those itty bitty baby toes.

Whether it has been days, weeks, months, or years since you became a mom, you are changed.  You cannot be the same person you were before.  And that is ok.

Your body spent months growing a human being.

Think about that.

You had a person (who started out as smell as the period on this page) moving, changing, hiccupping, rolling, in. your. body. This didn’t happen over night. For many women like you, this took nine long, hard months of pregnancy, which didn’t always come easy.

Food aversions. Nausea. Exhaustion. Discomfort. Pain. Emotions.

But all of that was worth it in the end, wasn’t it?

Maybe the words of others are blaring in your mind as you look at yourself in the mirror.  The words of loved ones and even strangers can cut deep when you are already feeling so vulnerable and uncertain in this “new” body of motherhood.  Words that tell you you don’t look good enough, small enough, well-rested enough… The judgments come fast and quick, catching you off-guard.

I’m here to tell you that you are beautiful. Period. No matter what others say. They haven’t felt those first flutters from your growing baby, or experienced the joy that came when you heard that first cry, or the pride you felt upon first seeing the tiny little person who has your eyes.

Those naysayers’ opinions hold absolutely no stock in how you, as a mother, should look.  So ignore them. They’re wrong. Their voices are loud right now, but let mine be louder.

We can’t expect ourselves to do one of the most amazing things in the world (grow a human being) without changing spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and, yes, physically.

Your body is perfect just the way it is, no matter what the numbers on your waistband or scale say. If you don’t believe me, ask that little one staring up at you. To them, there has never been a mother more radiant and perfect than you. They’re talking about the YOU right now, not the you from your pre-baby years.

And they are right.  You are the source of their comfort and needs.  You are the one that stays up late at night, checking temperatures and praying for health for your sweet babies. You are the one that foregoes taking a shower for the second day in a row in order to play Legos with your little boy, or play dress-up with your little girl. You are the one who selflessly gives of herself, even when all you want to do is run in the other direction.

Those things you do for your children are not dependent on what you see in the mirror, or what others see walking down the aisle at Target.  Because the thing about motherhood that matters the most cannot be seen by the human eye.  The thing about motherhood that matters most goes much deeper than appearance.

Your heart.

Your heart, your love for your children, is the most beautiful thing you or any other parent can possess.  No scale or tape measure can accurately count that.

And when you think about it, the way you are right at this very moment is a testament to that love for your children.  Your mom-heart is shining through.

Friend, the next time you look at your reflection, take pride in knowing that your body, albeit different than what it was before kids, is actually more perfect now. Hold your head up.  Know that what you do matters, and how you look does not. You are the mom that your kids need and love, right at this very moment.

You are amazing.

Sincerely,
A mom who has been there.

Source: beautyredefined.org

Source: beautyredefined.org

Pass the Super Glue, Please!

Source: glossyinc.com

Source: glossyinc.com

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is this: “How do you do it all?”  (In reference to raising five-soon-to-be-six young kids, homeschooling, housekeeping, etc.)

The long answer I usually give is something along the lines of, “My husband is an awesome helper! We are a team and take care of whatever needs to be done. Our kids are also learning to help more so our family unit functions more smoothly.” (Which is, quite frankly, 100% true… I have an awesome hubby who steps in helps right from the moment he gets home from work!)

But wanna hear the more-real short answer?  Quite honestly, most days I don’t, I can’t, do it all.

Exhibit A:

My clean clothing pile from this morning.

My clean clothing pile from this morning.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Looking around my house and examining my day-to-day life, I really don’t feel like I have it all together.  Have you seen the pile of papers on my counter that still needs to be sorted through? And the reading lessons waiting to be completed by my five and six year olds? And phone calls and messages waiting to be returned? And the sink full of dirty dishes? And Pinterest projects waiting to be started? (Thank heavens my kids don’t have Pinterest accounts so they can’t see all the awesome things other moms are doing with their kids!!)

I most definitely do not have it all together. And to be honest, I don’t know if any of us do. (However, if you DO know how to keep it all together all the time, please feel free to share your secret because I would love to know!) And you know what? I’m ok with not having it all together!  The times I feel most stressed out are the times I let the things I “need to do”, the things I feel I must complete in order to be a good mom, wife, friend, fill up my immediate vision and I lose sight of what really matters most: this time in life I have here with my kids.

How can we possibly fit cleaning, laundry, school/learning, exploring, creative outlets, food preparation, reading, nurturing, character building, life skills, socializing, and sleep all in one 24 hour period?  I don’t know about you, but I physically can’t do it all, no matter how much coffee I consume.

Some days are picture-perfect, while (many) other days are filled with the “bumps” and “hiccups” of life. Unexpected injuries (like, hypothetically speaking, someone pushing their little sister out of a bunk bed, resulting in a broken arm and several hours spent at the ER, because that would never happen here… right…) and needs seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times.  Our best laid-out plans and schedules need to pause while we tend to the most important issue of the moment, which often revolves around the little ones in our lives.  (One of the many reasons my bedroom floor is usually covered in clean laundry, patiently waiting to be folded and put away properly.)

Some things in life have got to give and take the back burner while we focus our time and energy on what is most important.    For some of us, the list of things to do seems never ending, growing longer by the day.  And while we should make goals to try to get caught up (eventually), our number one goal should be to be present with our kids.  Right here, right now.  The laundry piles, dirty dishes, e-mail and Facebook messages, school lessons, shopping lists, piles of paperwork will always be there, no matter how hard we try to stay caught up.  Our kids, however, are only here for a brief moment in our lives.

Everything can’t be a priority in life, so I’m learning it is ok to backlog things that aren’t as important as my children.  Don’t be afraid to let the laundry get backed up a little. In fact, I challenge you to embrace the daily “messes” of life! Muddy footprints on the floor; healthy little bodies to run. Dirty dishes in the sink; full tummies. Sleepless nights; comforted babies. Full laundry baskets; even fuller hearts. Happy children; happy homes.

family

Yes, having Mommy Super Glue available for the times I am barely hanging on by a thread, trying to keep it all together, would be really handy.  But going through the trials and experiences of daily life, learning along the way how to function and make our lives work when we feel like there just aren’t enough hours in a day, figuring out what our real priorities in life are, is way more beneficial than a quick-fix.

Because the best things in life take time and are more appreciated when all is said and done. 🙂

Finding Joy

"Daisies" as my girls like to call them

“Daisies” as my girls like to call them

If someone had told me seven years ago, the day I saw that first positive pregnancy test, that I was about to embark on one of the most rewarding, exciting, joy-filled adventures in life, I don’t think I would’ve believed them. Who in the world would have thought I would ever be worthy of doing such a thing? Yet here I am!

But see? There was a catch. While being a mom (and, in particular, a stay-at-home mom) is all of those wonderful things and more, there are the dark, secret sides to it that no one talks about.  Rewarding? Yes. But also challenging.  Exciting? Absolutely! But also full of so much monotony and mundaneness, each day looking just like the last. Joy-filled? Definitely, but sometimes it seems to be more tears-mixed-with-frustrations-filled.

Through these past five years as a SAHM I’ve had to redefine myself in many ways (as mom, wife, friend) more times than I care to count.  It seems that with each growing pain my kids have, I find myself going through my own growing pains.  Whether it is finding my wings in a new place we move to, or learning how to juggle yet another little one in our already busy life, or simply finding time to breathe for myself when there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours or energy in a day.

My newest growing pain? Lately, I have been struggling to find joy in doing “this”, day-in and day-out.  To be honest, there are some days when I wonder if I’m really cut out for “this”. “This”, as in being home with my kids 24/7.  How do I find the joy in the monotony and mundaneness that comes with being home all day every day?  Because at times, even with all of these wonderful little people around me, I feel lonely.

So that is my current growing pain: Finding joy in the loneliness.  I don’t expect to wake up one day, suddenly overcome with the secret “formula” to having it figured out.  Just like teaching our little ones how to walk, we can’t expect to be experts at any one thing immediately; we have to take those small, baby steps before we can run.  It is a slow, grueling process that takes time, effort, thoughtfulness, and practice. Time plus a goal plus effort equals success (or at least I hope it does in this case).

The first baby step I need to take is to find where these feelings of loneliness happen and try to counter them. Loneliness finds me in the late night soothing of a little one, when no one else is around to witness or notice my doings.  It finds me in the unspoken conversations I have each day, counting down the minutes until my husband comes home and I can have an actual adult conversation. It finds me when I realize that if I had a job outside of the home I would have the camaraderie of co-workers. It finds me when I’m fighting my own fights with myself over being a good mother, and whether what I’m doing is really all that important.  It finds me when I’m having a rough day with the kids and I want nothing more than to have a friend call me up to say “hi”, or talk with me over a hot cup of coffee, reassuring me that I’m not the only one that has rough days.

And, strange enough, loneliness doesn’t come alone.  No, those feelings of loneliness bring along a taste of dissatisfaction and discontentedness. Ah, that. That right there’s what is truly robbing me of my joy.  The feelings of loneliness fester and ooze over time until I eventually become more content with the idea of how my life COULD be, how I think I could be happiest, instead of learning to be content with how my life currently is.

When I focus so much on what I think might make me happier or feel more fulfilled I lose sight of how the simple, “little” things in my life are not only good enough but they are exactly what I need. I’m not ok with simply going through the motions of day-to-day life; I want to find the joy again, the things that make me realize that the life I am living, the role I am playing, are worthwhile and important.  The joy in serving my family; the joy in those (few-and-far-between) moments I get to spend with friends and loved ones; the joy in simply fulfilling the purpose for my life.

The old saying “The grass is greener on the other side” rings true.  But I challenge that old saying and am claiming: “If the grass looks greener on the other side, it’s time to water my lawn.” The place I need to take those first baby steps, the place I need to make a change, is in my heart.  Because until I make that heart-change, I will never be satisfied or content; I will always struggle with my feelings of loneliness and wanting more.

These little people I have the opportunity to wake up to each morning are enough.  The dishes I wash endlessly, the laundry I wash and fold over and over again, are enough.  The quiet moments I spend in bed each night, reflecting on the rough/good/happy/sad day I just had, are enough.  The cherished times spent with friends and family are enough. The boo-boos I kiss, the fights I referee, the crusts I cut off sandwiches are enough.  I want my kids to know they can be joy-filled and feel fulfilled no matter where God puts them in life.  I need them to see that I am happy where I’m at, that what I have been given is enough, so they can learn to be happy where they are at.  “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!”

Finding the joy won’t come over night, and I know I will still have moments where I feel in a slump.  But I also know that each day I take those baby steps and “fall”, I’m that much closer to running.